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Hey guys,
I really need some input on my situation. I'm a college student and live with my parents and we all share a dog, Marley, who is 1 year and 3 months old. We have had him since he was about 10 weeks and he was always the sweetest puppy. Never barked and loved everyone. It seems like right after his first birthday he changed. Suddenly he became aggressive towards random individuals and dogs. We figured it had to do with his hormones so we had him neutered in the beginning of June. He has calmed down as far as marking is concerned and it might have helped a little with the aggression but for the most part it hasn't changed.

We have tried to distract him when dogs and strangers go by and as long as he can't see them it works but he knows someone is there and tries to look around us. We have also tried talking calmly and petting him, telling him good boy when he doesn't bark at dogs and strangers, telling him calmly no when he does bark at strangers and dogs, etc. The hard part is that it's completely random who he is going to bark at so it's hard to know when to be ready or what to do to prevent the situation, and when it does happen he gets so worked up he completely ignores us telling him no or trying to calm him down.

It has also escalated to the point where if he gets loose he will get into a fight with dogs, or chase and lunge at the people. Unfortunately my dad doesn't watch him as well as the rest of us so this has happened a few times. He has gotten into one or two dog fights and chased a couple people but thankfully he hasn't bitten anyone. I'm honestly terrified he will bite someone and we will have to put him down.

I would like to try training with a professional but right now we don't really have the money for that. Does anyone have any suggestions that we could try at home? I'm pretty desperate at this point. I want my sweet dog back.
 

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Hi, and welcome to the DF!

The first thing I always have to ask is if you looked into any sort of health problems other than castration. Any sudden behavior changes should always be looked at. Can you think of anything that may have happened around a year old? Any sort of scrap between dogs, a loud noise that spooked him etc?

Secondly, how much physical and mental training does he get? The chasing, staring, nipping sounds like an under-stimulated BC listening to his instincts and herding people.

I know you say his barking is random, but I would start writing down anything about the people he DOES bark at. Maybe it is people in hats, or anyone above 6 feet. Try to look for a pattern, and then we can start dealing with counter-conditioning and LAT/BAT.

I'll also tag @PoppyKenna who does have a reactive dog and can talk to you all day about LAT/BAT.
 

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I agree with @Shandula. First rule out anything medical.

As far as training goes, have you shopped around for prices? Some trainers aren't as expensive as you might think - so maybe it's a possibility, either now or later. I think going to training is always good whether your dog is reactive or not, so maybe you could just start putting a little bit away each week - even if it's just $5-$10 - and save up for a local class. Just be sure to check them out first and make sure they're positive and ideally have some experience with reactivity/aggression in dogs.

But, I'm a student too and I know how tight things can be sometimes.

I would definitely check out LAT/BAT. I looooove BAT 2.0. I'm betting part of your problem is that you're just too close to the trigger, and BAT 2.0 addresses this and then some. If you can't get your dog's attention away from the trigger, you're too close.

LAT is literally just "look at that". Your dog looks at the trigger and then gets a treat. With time, your dog should be able to predict that look=treat. You can also add in a cue where you encourage your dog to look at the trigger and then give a treat but I've never gone that far with it.

For me, LAT is more of a casual game I play or something I do when I'm in a situation where my dog is uncomfortable but I can't escape. I'll get as far away as possible, put my body between him and the trigger, and every time he sees the trigger he gets a treat.

If it's something that is only in the area for a bit (such as a person jogging by) you can also do counter conditioning. As soon as your dog notices the trigger, wait about half a second and start feeding him a constant barrage of treats until about half a second after the trigger leaves. Rinse and repeat ;).

BAT is more complicated than I can really explain, but essentially it's all about giving your dog plenty of space to explore his triggers and gather information about them without feeling overwhelmed enough to react. It's a good thing to do in set ups and, if possible, just on regular walks if you have access to a place where you can get a good amount of space between you and potential triggers. I HIGHLY recommend the book, it's called BAT 2.0 and it is written by Grisha Stewart. You can get it on her website (it's a little cheaper for the online version but the print one isn't too expensive either) or you can get it on Amazon. Just be sure it's the 2.0 version as that one is more user friendly and has been updated to work a little bit better.

And...good luck to you. I know how frustrating reactivity can be. My pup has been reactive in different ways essentially since he came home. Often, it's just about taking it one day at a time.
 

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Always difficult to do 'long distance diagnoses', but I do know that Border Collies can be a very challenging breed. They are fundamentally working dogs, and need probably at least five times the exercise you think they do, if they are not in the fields herding. They are also considered to be about the smartest dog breed, so if they get bored, all that intelligence is going to used to find ways to entertain himself, and its not likely you are going to agree with his entertainment decisions. Have neighbors that have a BC and its practically a full time job keeping him exercised. They are fortunately very dedicated and their BC is a real sweetheart, but a significant part of their lives are spent keeping him tired.
 

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Welcome from me too. We also have a collie. Now a bit over two years old.

I agree with Shan, Poppy and Laco.
Collies are a very active breed and that is not to be underestimated. Laco makes that point well.
"need probably at least five times the exercise you think they do"

We regularly do six to ten miles a day. Every day. That requires an investment in time. And fortitude. You can't bail out of it if is too wet or windy or if the snow is falling. But you get far more out of that investment than you put in.
 

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I agree with the others, you've got a high energy breed and an adolescent age dog. That combination is a force! :) For this age and breed, they need so much physical exercise. I had a friend who ran her BC about 2 hrs a day, and the dog still wanted more at the end of the day.

Physical and mental games (training, tricks, games, etc) will do a lot to calm your dog.

Also, practice the "Look" command that the other commenter suggested. That helped me in the situation when my boy wanted to meet and play with every dog that we passed by on our walks.
 
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